Saturday, 26 July 2008

The Traps Of Time - ed Michael Moorcock

This is an astonishing anthology of pieces that could only (although I would be happy to be proved wrong) have been put together in the late ‘60s. Ostensibly a collection of pieces of science fiction, it goes way beyond genre for along with stalwarts of the science fiction community, it also features work by Borges and by Alfred Jarry.

Each of the nine stories and the one essay are about time. There is no time travelling in the conventional sense. Instead the stories explore time from a metaphysical and psychological stance. Aldiss’s tale of an astronaut returned from Mars who finds himself living 3.3077 minutes ahead of everyone else reveals the frustrations of everyone involved, along with the moral conundrums. It sets the tone for the rest of the book; thoughtful, well written, original, and often haunting.

Other contributors are Charles Harness, Langdon Jones, J G Ballard, David Masson, George Collyn, Thomas Disch, and Roger Zelazny. Each has their unique take on the theme; each demonstrates a literary skill that would probably astonish those who consider science fiction to be the work of hacks. Much of it is, as is much of any other genre including literary works. Yet Borges and Jarry do not stand out in this collection as superior writers. They are amongst equals.

I suspect the collection is now out of print although copies can be found if you look. It is certainly worth keeping your eye open for, if for no other reason than that it demonstrates that recent forays by the literati into the edges of the sci fi ghetto and praised for their originality are treating ideas explored half a century or more ago and with a great deal more skill.